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July 01, 2010

Good News: Liberals Find Spending They Want To Cut

The bad news isÖitís from the defense budget and will essentially hollow out our military.

The recommendations are from the Sustainable Defense Task Force (I do not think those first words mean what they think they mean) which is an ad hoc group of think tanks and legislators led by Barney Frank andÖ Ron Paul. Frank and Paul together? What could go wrong?

Just the gutting of the military.

The Air Force must retire six fighter air wings equivalents, and at the same time build 301 fewer F-35 fighters. The nuclear bomber force will be completely eliminated in the name of unilateral disarmamentóthe B-1 and B-2 and B-52 and other bombers will still be able to drop bombs, but their nuclear weapon wiring and controls will simply be removed. Procurement of the new refueling tanker and the C-17 cargo aircraft will be canceled. Directed energy beam research and other advanced missile and space warfare defense projects will also be eliminated or curtailed.

Active duty Army personnel will be slashed from 562,400 to 360,000. That includes elimination of about five active-component brigade combat teams (the report is not exactly). The Army will also suffer a myriad of other cuts, including closure of overseas bases.

The Marine Corps would be cut by 30%, from 202,000 to 145,000, and the other funding cuts planned for the Corps mean the United States will not be able to mount a major amphibious landing on any hostile shore. Marine Corps programs to be killed include the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Granted, a lot of this is pie-in-the-sky thinking from liberals, itís their wish list but itís not like they donít have a friend in a very high place. Remember this Obama video from the campaign? In his heart, he thinks theyíre right. So while this may well be the leftís outer marker, it gives you an idea of what weíre up against in the coming years.

And if you donít think it could happen, well it happened in the 70ís and itís already happening now as the Air Force considers retiring its entire B-1 Bomber fleet. Itís kind of ironic that the poster child for the Reagan defense build up may well wind up being emblematic of the Obama draw down (though I guess the F-22 will be remember as the beginning of the end).

The Navy is already seeing the disastrous effects of not spending enough and improperly managing the training and maintenance resources they do have.


An independent probe into the state of the U.S. Navy's surface force has found widespread, systemic dysfunction in its manning, readiness and training, and repudiates much of the service's high-level decision-making in the last decade.

The report - commissioned by Adm. John Harvey, the Fleet Forces commander, and produced by a seven-member panel led by retired Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle that included two serving rear admirals - warns that unless the Navy mends its ways, it will continue to see surface ships condemned in inspections and sail unready to fight.

Ö

How did it happen? Driven by top-level pressure to be as efficient as possible, Navy leaders in the early 2000s made a series of interrelated decisions to cut sailors, reform training, "streamline" fleet maintenance and take other steps in keeping with the philosophy then en vogue of "running the Navy like a business."

As the reality of budget cuts begin to take hold and Obama laughingly threatens to ďcall the bluffĒ of his spending critics, we may well see some support for defense cuts from the right.

Into the breach steps Sarah Palin to say not so fast.

There's growing concern among Republicans -- and especially among the pro-defense neoconservative wing of the party -- that national-security spending, which is under a level of scrutiny and pressure not seen since the end of the Cold War, could fall victim to the anti-establishment, anti-spending agenda of the Tea Party movement. Palin, as the unofficial leader of that movement and its most prominent celebrity, is moving to carve out such funding from any drives to cut overall government expenditures.

There's a sense among GOP insiders that she is not only the perfect figure to make the case, but she's also the only one who can pull it off.

Ö

Palin's drive to lead the charge against defense cuts on the right was on display in a June 27 speech at "Freedom Fest," a conservative gathering in Norfolk, VA, where she sent a clear message to Republicans that deficit reduction can't come at the expense of the military.

"Something has to be done urgently to stop the out of control Obama-Reid-Pelosi spending machine, and no government agency should be immune from budget scrutiny," she said. "We must make sure, however, that we do nothing to undermine the effectiveness of our military. If we lose wars, if we lose the ability to deter adversaries, if we lose the ability to provide security for ourselves and for our allies, we risk losing all that makes America great! That is a price we cannot afford to pay."

Palin also directly took on Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, challenging his drive to reign in procurement spending and reevaluate the need for certain huge weapons systems and platforms.

"Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to Ďask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.' He went on to ask, ĎDo we really need ... more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?'" Palin said. "Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and, yes, we do, because we must."

Even if the Republicans win the House and/or Senate later this year, thereís going to be a lot of hard and ugly choices to be made. Yes, a lot of them are because of Republican overspending in years past but Obamaís spending spree has turned a problem into an existential crisis.

The Republicans are going to be in a similar position to the Torry/LibDem coalition in the UK, the left has baked a time bomb into the budget cake and now itís going to be up to the opposition to defuse it and take the heat for politically unpopular choices. The right is going to be in the awkward position of defending a lot of defense spending while clamoring for other cuts.

The first step in that process is laying out an honest set of military requirements and building a budget around them (not the other way around) and inserting a dose of reality into the debate about the size of the defense budget relative to other spending.

Correct as that position maybe, itís going to be a politically difficult path to walk.

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posted by DrewM. at 05:18 PM

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